3D Print to Survive the Apocalypse: A Look at the Overlap Between 3D Printing and Gaming

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download-2This spring, game developer Holospark will be releasing Earthfall, a first-person co-operative shooter game set in a post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest that has been ravaged by aliens. The invasion, along with an electromagnetic wave, has destroyed most of the world’s electronics, but there’s at least one kind of device that has survived: 3D printers. As players battle the invading aliens, they’re able to replenish their supplies by 3D printing them within the game.

“For example, if the players didn’t take the time to craft a fence and rather print out a few AK-47s, they’d have to deal with more enemies,” explains reviewer Nick Valdez of Destructoid, who was able to try out an advance version of the game at PAX South this week. “Other options included turrets, shotguns, and the like. Completing these missions rewards the players with loot, perks, and additional weapons in the 3D printers.”

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I SAID PRINT FASTER!

It’s a cool concept for a video game, and one that Valdez praises as unique enough to set Earthfall apart from other similar games.

“I’m pretty jazzed to try out the full product at release to see if its 3D printing mechanic can differentiate it enough from other popular titles,” he continues.

I like the concept because it gives the game a bit of an element of reality – in a post-apocalyptic alien-infested wasteland, if you need something, you’re going to have to make it yourself. (Yes, I realize my definition of reality is a bit relative here as we’re talking about post-apocalyptic alien-infested wastelands, but bear with me. It could happen. You don’t know.) It’s also an interesting indicator of the way 3D printing has become intertwined with gaming.

A mark of a good video game is how well it can draw the player into its fictional world, and technology is beginning to be able to bring individual players so far into their games it’s almost scary. I’m talking mostly about virtual reality, which lets you truly immerse yourself in a fictional setting, but 3D scanning is developing to the point where people will be able to scan themselves and insert their own likenesses into games – an idea I find cool but a bit unnerving, to be honest.

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3D printing, though, does the opposite – it allows you to bring elements of virtual games into physical reality, in a sense. Whispering Gibbon’s RenderFab technology, for example, lets you freeze and 3D print actual scenes from games – imagine doing that with a game that features your own image as an avatar. It’s one thing to 3D print a selfie to stick on your bookshelf and forget about, and quite another to print yourself facing down a Regenerator. Sweet dreams!

3dp_minecraft_printed_example-e1460024802739On a less horrifying note, Minecraft is one of the best examples of the intersection of gaming and 3D printing. One of Minecraft’s greatest appeals – for both children and adults – is that it lets you build your own world. You need something? You build it. The simple, block-based graphics of Minecraft make it especially easy to 3D print models taken from the game, and that makes it even more satisfying, in my opinion – not only are you constructing your own virtual world, you’re constructing a world you can actually hold in your hands, if you so desire.

I think for many people, the appeal of video games has gradually shifted over the years – it’s becoming more about creating your own reality rather than stepping into someone else’s constructed reality. And that’s much of the appeal of 3D printing – rather than relying on someone else to provide us with the things we need, we can make them ourselves, to our own specifications and according to our own personal needs. And that’s a handy ability if you find yourself in a post-apocalyptic alien-infested wasteland, for example.

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Whee!

I grew up playing Super Mario Bros., and I will stand by my assertion that it is one of the best games ever created – though that’s probably my sentimental ’90s inner child talking. I could go on about the evolution of video games since then, but that’s enough material to fill a book, and I’m fairly sure that books have been written on the subject by people with much more expertise than I have. But we’ve come a long way from the days when video game survival involved leaping into the air and grabbing magical floating coins from the ether. Now, we can build our own tools, both in the virtual and real world – and Earthfall’s 3D printer is, if nothing else, a nice little nod to that overlap. Discuss in the 3D Printing Video Games forum at 3DPB.com.

 

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